The Economical Modern Laptop Computer

Laptop computers used to be pricy little toys. But these days, they’re as economical as any desktop model — and much more useful.

I will confess: Your Humble Writer’s first laptop computer was expensive, dreadfully slow, and weighed about forty pounds, making it neither easily portable nor easy on the lap. Such are the perils of being an early adopter.

It was almost enough to ruin me on laptops, since desktop models were better all around back then. Fortunately, as it tends to do, computer technology caught up to its hype, and today I wouldn’t be caught dead considering the purchase of a desktop computer. You shouldn’t either, and here’s why.

The Computers Themselves

There was a time when the only reason to own a laptop computer was the portability factor: you could take one anywhere there was an electrical plug and a phone line, and if you had a decent battery (not likely), you didn’t need that much.

Otherwise, why bother? They didn’t have anything near the speed or capacity of a desktop, they were too fragile, and to be honest, they were surprisingly heavy. Plus, they cost the Earth. A decent laptop could easily cost twice as much as a comparable desktop model.

Ah, but with miniaturization and cheap computer memory, all things are possible. Nowadays, laptops tend to be light, sturdy, and gifted with all the memory, programs, and other capabilities once limited to their desktop brethren. So why buy a big, heavy desktop at all?

The Price

Oh, and did I mention that the prices of laptops have plummeted? No longer does price overpower utility; no indeed. A basic laptop or notebook computer tends to cost about the same as a desktop. Now, while you can spend as much as you want for a laptop, thousands of bucks even, you don’t have to.

These days, you can get a fast, powerful laptop with features that experts wouldn’t have dreamed were possible ten years ago (and in some cases, five) for $500-600 — often less. The one I’m typing on now cost less than $400 back in September 2010. Stripped-down netbooks can be even cheaper.

Electrical Savings

Here’s the kicker, especially if you’re both savvy and green: a laptop uses just one-quarter of the electricity of a comparable desktop. That makes sense, given the light, miniaturized nature of a laptop. Batteries last for hours now, which makes life so much easier than I had it back in ’92.

These are powerful arguments for purchasing a laptop over a desktop, in these days of high energy costs. Add them to all these other factors — portability, speed, power, and price — and laptop computers are looking like a much better deal than their desk-bound relatives.